The text below is a copy of the recommendation letter my graduate research advisor, Dr. Aaron W. Harper, wrote for my ASEE/NRL postdoctoral fellowship application, which I was awarded soon afterwards.

Naval Research Laboratory
Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
American Society for Engineering Education

July 30, 2004

Dear Fellowship Committee Members,

I am writing this letter in support of Sean O. Clancy, for your consideration as a Naval Research Laboratory Postdoctoral Fellow.

Sean joined my research group in the Fall semester of 1999, when I was on the faculty at Texas A&M University, and he moved with me to USC the following year. Before I mention his specific project, let me comment on his general scientific abilities. His work required him to master synthetic organic chemistry, polymer synthesis and characterization, and a variety of photophysical spectroscopies, including time-resolved and energy-transfer studies. Sean excelled in the technical aspects of his labwork, such as synthesis and use of instrumentation. One thing that sets Sean apart from most other students is that he is a gifted experimentalist. He is tenacious when it comes to making a reaction work, often departing from the literature methods when it was clear that the standard procedures did not work for his target compounds. In a similar vein, Sean is not shy when tackling something unfamiliar, often exploring new chemistry or classes of materials that he thought would benefit his projects.

Sean’s thesis work involved two key projects. In one, he developed polymers for use as active components in optical signal amplifiers for telecommunications applications. His investigations led to the systematic development of new organic materials that emitted light in the near-infrared. This was a significant accomplishment, because organic materials are notorious for quenching erbium(III) emission. In Sean’s second project, he elucidated the structure-property relationships that governed energy transfer from conjugated polymers to various laser dyes. Such materials and studies are important in developing organic-based lasers, solar cells, and chemical sensors. He has discussed his work recently at several national meetings, and two manuscripts are being readied for publication. The materials that Sean developed are now being evaluated for optical signal amplification and chemical sensing. The skills that he has developed as a student in my group, namely elucidation of structure-function relationships, rational design and synthesis of molecules with specific properties, experimental methodology, and data analysis and interpretation, will serve him well in a position in which he is to use creativity and problem solving in his research.

On a personal level, Sean is a terrific person to know and with which to work. He has a patient and friendly demeanor, which will serve him well not only when working with his peers, but also in positions in which he will direct others. Never have I seen him become frustrated or impatient with another person. He is generous with his knowledge and time. He is always willing to help his groupmates, often other students how to perform unfamiliar reactions, or troubleshoot problems in their synthetic endeavors. It is a pleasure to work with Sean. He quickly gained the respect and admiration of his peers as well as the faculty, both for his scientific creativity and willingness to work with others.

Without a doubt, Sean is truly an exceptional scientist. Considering his track record to date, as well as my familiarity of his demeanor, creativity, and abilities as a scientist, I am certain that he will continue on his present track to obtain a distinguished career, one that will not simply expand the state of knowledge in his research field, but forge new directions in the future of those endeavors. Awarding this Fellowship to Sean would be most befitting of his talent as a scientist. He has my highest recommendation.


Aaron W. Harper
Assistant Professor of Chemistry
University of Southern California